"Is is there no other way?" Valena asked standing in front of mighty Arishok, the leader of qunari who was almost twice her height. Although she knew there were no variants left: the only thing that could convince qunari leave peacefully was now farther and farther away from here with each passing minute.
This story will not end without bloodshed, she knew it.
"The relic we came here for was stolen from us again, the last attempt to retrieve it peacefully was ruined by you, saribas!" Arishok swiped his huge bloody axe and spattered Valena with viscous dark-red glop that once was under someone`s skin, young mage almost chocked on horrible rotten-metallic stench.
'Damn you, Isabella!' She thought, 'Damn you selfish gucky bitch! These men`s blood is on your hands!'
She took a look on scared citizens around her as they watched her with beg in their eyes
What an irony she, the apostate mage was their only hope here, in city where people with magical gift were treated worse than trash!
With corner of her eye she mentioned Varric, on her left with his crossbow armed and ready: brave dwarf stood still and silent with no fear as his gloved fingers hugged habitual wooden frame of "Byanka". Valena also knew that Fenris was watching her back, and Aveline covered her from the right, even if she could not see warrior-maiden she heard her heavy tense breath behind well not surprising giving she had been a living shield for them all the way here. As mage and healer Valena felt her tire but nevertheless she knew she could always count on her shield and sword when necessary
Why did you do this?'
Heavy sound of qunari sigh returned her mind to reality. Arishok raised his hand in "heads-up" gesture, one move and all his warriors will attack. About twenty spear-throwers, two mages, two dozens melee warriors plus Arishok himself not fair odds against four exhausted people, not to mention that any massive attack will inevitably end in massacre of helpless civilians desperately hugging side walls of the keep hall.
"There is only one way to settle this then!" She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, magic energy winded around her causing qunari warriors roar in anger but they did not dare attack without order.
She couldn`t finish since the next second she heard one of the Qunari falling into the room like a helpless blind kitten: with usual elegancy and certain dose of arrogant overconfidence Isabella entered the hall, shaking her hips like it was a beauty contest not bloody massacre!
She held the VERY thick book at her side, moving through the complete awe and numbness of the silent scene she caused, followed by a few dozen pairs of round eyes. It took suffocating call for Hawke to realize she even held her breath!
The only person who somehow remained as he should was Arishok, though even he was surprised
to put it lightly!
"Here!" The pirate gave him the tome, by the relief on her face Valena understood how heavy it was for her in both meanings of the word! "I`m sure you`ll find it mostly undamaged!"
Arishok`s hands trembled when he reached for the precious relic, as his clawed fingers grasped its old creaky binding the entire hall echoed his sight of relief it could be compared to someone lived all his life in the sewers, and then he could breath in deeply fresh mountain air!
" Valena pinched herself to be sure, "I can`t believe this is you
You have returned?!"
Isabella granted her with VERY moody sight, but her lips arched in sly smirk.
"This is all YOUR damned influence, Hawke! Hell, you`ve just ruined my life, you know that, snow-white?!"
The cold creaky voice of the Qunari leader returned them both to reality.
"The Relic is reclaimed!" Valena noticed that he already gave the book to someone, but she didn`t see or care, she felt great relief, damn she merely tried to challenge this guy for a duel, hah foolish thought! "Now, I can return to the Par Vollen
with the thief!"
His last words made all people`s jaws fell off no one expected this!
"WHAT?!" all the five voices shouted at once.
"You know we do not suffer theft, Hawke!" Qunari leader narrowed his demonic eyes, Valena instinctively moved t the left, covering her friend and Isabella just as instinctively stepped back. "I can`t let her walk freely from this insult!"
The thought Hawke counted foolish just a moment ago already didn`t look so much foolish
"I won`t give her to you!" Valena lost the last drops of her patience: her eyes shined with magic and her voice trembled of the immense energy her body held, "Take your (she barely held "damned" - not to make thing worse!) book and go, you have what you wanted!"
The qunari sighed heavily, like the old mentor who even after many years couldn`t teach his apprentice he was disappointed, disappointed damn it!
'This halla-headed mutant dares mocking me!!' Hawke`s teeth crunched with fury, her beautiful face shaped into sign "Run for your life!".
"Even now you do not understand, Hawke!" He took his mighty axe off and flourished it with such ease, like it was made of air. It was already a challenge, or at least Valena thought it was
She pushed Isabella back and stepped forward, her sweaty palm already grasped her good old stranded staff.
"ENOUGH!" her loud shout cut through the hall like lightning through dark night sky, the very air around her shined with magic; all the nobility groaned or even yelled with surprise and fear - none had even the faintest idea that Lady Hawke, the respected noblewoman, was a mage.
"I`m have had enough of this petty sham!" Her left palm flourished with bright blue fire, blooming like a beautiful elegant flower deadly, but beautiful
just as Valena herself! "I have tolerated you here, I did my best to keep the peace, but this is too far! You come here on our land, kill our people, insult our faith! GET OUT OF MY CITY, you arrogant blindmen, or Maker be my witness I`ll send your remains back to Par Volen in the match box!!"
Those words echoed through building so loudly that they could reach coasts of Ferelden it seemed. Complete and deep silence covered hall after her words, even ever-calmed Arishok was surprised if not say more.
"Those are only empty threats of a beaten female!" The old qunari responded, "The Qun demands this pigpen cleansed, and so shall it be!"
Knowing this was a good set up, Hawked decided to finish her
improvised bravado more or less good!
"You echo other`s words, and as echo they lack strength! But no matter your might you fear, I can see it in your eyes!"
This was already the real incursion!
"I challenge you, Arishok!" She shouted again "Here in front of all your warriors!"
She flourished her staff and stabbed it deep into stone floor, mighty shockwave made even strongest warriors tremble some even fell off their feet.
"You and me to the death, here and now! If your foul teaching will flourish here, I`d rather die not to see this!"
She almost saw a smirk on Arishok`s face her speech definitely had certain effect!
"You are brave, Hawke! But you know no honor!"
Valena laughed with very loud and VERY strange laughter that echoed through entire keep, it was like a howl of a injured animal demonic, frightening
some noblewomen even fell unconscious! The echo made that demonic laughter even more fearsome.
"You! You dare tell me about honor?!" She looked back on the captives, "You, who captured those poor people and threaten them? You, who attacked the city that was your home for three years without warning? You who killed the defenseless old man who meant you no harm?!"
Valena`s lips arched into some twisted mockery on smile it was beautiful, but evil, frightening, mean.
"You would never know honor even if it would kick you in your ass!" Valena threw the luxury silver strand from her face and narrowed her eyes. "Refuse and leave as coward, accept my call and at least die as a brave man!"
Another deep silence swallowed the keep, no one expected such a speech even Varric felt a bit jealous. But it did help made Arishok angry at least!
"You speak openly, as one of my people!" The old qunari lowered his hand and stepped forward taking his weapons, "You do understand after all, saribas!
I will honor you with duel, and I will lead you to Qun!"
"Hah, you will try...!"
With no more words he rushed forward and hit her: Valena could never think such huge creature can move so quickly, within two seconds Arishok charged her and smashed mage with both of his blades. The force of impact was so strong that it crackled stone floor under
But when dust lulled everyone dropped their jaws as they saw no sign of Valena at all! No blood stains, no
nothing, only large crater of impact. Arishok took his weapons out and watched inside with uncertainty.
But suddenly earth beneath him started trembling, like small earth shake. A second later Valena appared from nothingness right behind qunari leader, weaving dark mysty cloud around her.
"Burn, devil!" She grabbed fireball and threw at Arishok, qunari leaped to the left and dodged it, and he rushed to the young woman again, his blades singed with bloodlust! But should he look in her eyes his brain was fettered with sharp chains of terror.
"Fear me, demon!" Valena`s voice waved through the room once again, almost deafening everyone on its way. The dark magic pierced Arishok`s mind, he desperately grasped his horned head like trying to hold it together and screaming of terror.
The next second he felt sizzling snap of fire and then the stabbing blue arrow plunged into his chest, making qunari leader fell on his knees: as a Healer Hawke was very strong at spiritual spells.
Valena stood back and shook her palms from the aftershock: producing two opposite spells almost at once was
difficult and tiresome. But as unlikely as it`d seem Arishok raised again: his chest was deeply injured and dark-red blood whiffed down his legs, sheding large drops on the stone floor. But still he stood up, his eyes were filled with fury and Valena suddenly realized this fight was far from over!
Even if he was bleeding the only thing she did for the moment was making him angry!
With a roar of incensed beast old warrior rushed forward and his blades merely cleaved the girl in two, she barely managed to block them. As any mage she knew basic means of self-defense and the Force Dome was one of them, and though she could hold this transparent "bubble" only for so long, she was completely safe for that moments Arishok`s hits simply bounced off, making him howl with fury hitting the "air" around her!
When the dome fell off, she touched her forehead concentrating, and before qunari knew he was thrown away with mighty Mind Blast.
Everyone was looking on that fight in amazement: the nobles, who never expected one of their own being a mage in the first place, the qunari who roared with anger every time their leader failed to kill that thin fragile female in so unaccustomed for them robes, and Hawke`s companions who never expected that always calm and polite lass to be THAT powerful! Fenris felt reverence creeps all over his Lyrium marked body this was a marvelous sight, even Danarius wasn`t so strong and skilled, not without using blood magic anyways!
Arishok stood back, feeling his strength fainting away along with blood he was losing, he smashed off the next fireball with his axe and reached for his pocket for the medicine. But as soon as Valena saw the bottle her left palm formed grasp, the next moment glass fial in Arishok`s hand blew up, flowing the dark-blue remedy on the floor.
"No chance, you monster!"
The fury roar of an old warrior merely threw her off her feet, it was so loud that Valena even couldn`t hear for a few moments! His eyes burned with rage and bloodlust, Arishok then charged Valena again hoping to throw her on ground and then stab, but Valena smashed the floor beneath her feet with the pummel of her staff and teleported again, Arishok`s sharp blades cleaved the air once more.
Then another surprise attack hit him from behind: Hawke was amazed by how durable and strong this Arishok was - she hit him constantly and he still would not give up: he would fall but raise again and again, whether his armor was somehow enchanted to withstand the magic or... she didn`t even want to think of other option!
Valena had felt that she runs out of mana, and though she was abviously winning the fight young mage understood that if she`d lose all her energy she would never come out of this combat alive!
Another mighty swing fell on her, Valena screamed but she did form the barrier to stop the hit - just in time, another second and this hall would be all red of her blood.
"Is that all you have?" She threw the qunari leader off, feeling such tiredness, like she did it with her own hands and not magic. Her hands were shaking, her lungs burning, her spells... weakening - this fight needed to stop soon!
While the horned giant recopvered Valena closed her eyes and breathed deeply; her staff fell on the floor, her palms turned to the stone walls, like reaching for them. The next moment rocks started to crack from one another and flew to her, like obedient mabari run to his master
When Arishok managed to stand up he saw
he wasn`t sure what he saw but it definitely wasn`t Valena as he remembered her! Her entire body was covered with stones, the rude rocks tied with one another forming twined stone armor around her: the hands, the legs, the torso only her head was not covered, and that sight alone was as intimidating as the whole army!
Arishok suddenly realized that magic was much more terrible power that even he imagined.
"Behold, devil! The true power given by the Maker!" Valena smashed her stone fists together, "By His will the very stone would fight you, beast!"
Arishok was the strongest of his people, their leader, the very living proof of the Qun but even the strongest faith could not help him now
HE attacked again, he simply couldn`t retreat! His axe stroke the cold stone "gauntlet" of the enemy, carving sparks and rock chips out of it, but it was as useful as stab an old oak with curving knife
Valena parried the attack and smashed opponent with her stone fist, hearing unpleasant scrunching sound at least two ribs were out!
"Face your end, butcher!" Her voice was as cold as the blue shine in her large eyes, her left "arm" shaped into stone shield to block another hit from still alive enemy, while he tried to cut his way through this wall, Hawke`s right "arm" formed the huge maul and with mighty swing smashed the horned giant on the floor.
It was over the moment Valena saw the thick blood blot on her "mace" she understood that this was not the wound even the Arishok would recover from. She came closer to the dying opponent and looked in his eyes, her sight was cold but not arrogant, she still felt certain regret for this entire mess that ended with this
The old warrior raised his already blackening sight to her, forcing his tongue to move and tried to speak.
With the last heavy sight he died his head fell on the stone stairs he stood on a few minutes ago, it was finally over.
Alena sighed too, this entire day was extremely exhausting, but she didn`t show her weakness not in front of all the other qunari here! She looked on them with cold determination in her eyes and spoke, reinforcing her voice with magic again.
"You all saw what I`m capable of! Remember, that there are hundreds of my brothers and sisters here, leave while you still can!"
Without a single word all the remained qunari came down the stairs and went out of the hall, leaving the keep and the city for good.
And only when the last of them disappeared in the darkness of the night, Valena let her "armor" collapse on the floor
with her as well! She was simply drained of mana a few more minutes and she`d forced to use her blood to support the charms!
"Hawke!" Isabella was the first to kneel before her, the pirate took her friend by her shoulders helping her to sit.
Valena looked at her and with all the strength she had slapped the wench: the hit wasn`t very painful mostly because of exhaustion, but still it was
"Hey, what was that about?!" Isabella wasn`t truly offended, just
"This is for that you escaped in the first place!" Valena smiled to her and then suddenly leaned to her friend and hugged her tightly, "And this is for that you came back! Thank you, Isabella!"
"Ow, you fool!" The pirate grasped her in the embrace as well, feeling hot tears sliding down her face on Valena`s shoulder, "You could have died!! Damn you, Hawke, why you have to be so good friend?!"
"The city have been saved!" Exclaimed some of the noble.
Valena barely moved to the crowd, Isabella and Aveline helped her to walk giving support. Hawke saw the faces, heard the joyful shouts, understood that she did it she saved the city! SHE SAVED THE CITY! Some of the noblemen tried to come and shake her hand or somehow thank their rescuer, but friends signed them to keep their distance, Hawke was very exhausted.
?" Valena raised her sight and saw it in the hands of blond haired woman in the threshed battle armor who was standing before her.
Knight-Commander Meredith came closer and gave the "Withe" back to the very pale young woman with unusual white hair, all covered in blood and dirt. The sight was... poor to put it lightly, but still anyone here was ready to kill for this girl!
Valena looked the Templar Leader in the eye, but as strange as it`d seem she saw no hatred or despise in Meredith`s eyes just
uncertainty! Hawke took it, smiling as her palm laid back on the familiar and dear staff, she then leaned on it for additional support.
"With Maker`s help
" Valena tried to lick her cracked lips, but her tongue was so dry that she simply scratched it, "We`ve won!"
Meredith looked on the crowd, yelling with joy and relief, and then back on the woman that stood before her, Valena even seemed to have seen smile on her face, but her next words made Hawke`s soul sing!
"It appears that Kirkwal has the new Champion!"